Highway Bill Becomes House Republican Headache : NPR
A bill that Republican leaders were promoting as the centerpiece of their job-creation agenda has instead turned into one of their biggest headaches, thanks largely to tea party conservatives who want to get the federal government out of transportation programs and hand them over to the states.
The House and Senate are heading toward a showdown next week that could result in a cutoff of federal highway and transit aid to states just as the spring construction season starts. The government’s authority to spend money from the trust fund that pays for transportation programs, as well as its power to levy the federal gasoline and diesel taxes that feed the fund expire on March 31. Democrats estimate as many as 1.8 million jobs supported by those programs are at risk.
Neither side wants a shutdown, but House Speaker John Boehner has been unable to recruit enough Republicans to pass the GOP’s overhaul of federal highway programs. The biggest group of holdouts are conservatives who want highway programs to be paid for entirely by federal gas and diesel taxes even though that might mean a nearly 40 percent cut in spending, because revenue from those taxes has declined.